This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


I'm Audie Cornish. And this next story is about a disturbing mystery: more than 6,000 dead pigs found floating in a river in Shanghai, China. The Huangpu River provides part of the city's water supply. The pigs were discovered more than a week ago, and yet authorities have yet to fully explain where the pigs came from or why they died. NPR's Frank Langfitt headed upriver to try to learn more.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: I'm in the Zhejiang province, just upstream from Shanghai, and I'm looking out over fields of lush green barley. And this is pig country. This area is home to 4.5 million pigs.

A young man named Ye says his village called Zhulin is loaded with pigs, but there have been no big die-offs.

YE: (Through translator) They say there are more pigs than humans in our village. It is indeed the case. Some families have more than a thousand pigs. But not many pigs died recently. No, not really.

LANGFITT: Ye denies that the pigs lining the riverbanks in the metropolis of Shanghai came from around here. Ye's father chimes in.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Through translator) Here, people would be fined if they threw pigs into rivers. There are government people collecting dead pigs.

LANGFITT: But a village official, Wang Xianjun, told a local newspaper 18,000 pigs had died in Zhulin this year. And one provincial official attributed pig deaths to cold weather. When NPR tried to contact Wang, village officials said he didn't exist, which isn't true. Hong Kong's South China Morning Post quoted Zhejiang villagers saying farmers dumped pigs in the river because there were too many for government disposal areas. In addition, villagers said some farmers may have dumped pigs because of a crackdown on selling infected pig parts for human consumption. China's state media reported this week that 46 people have been jailed in Zhejiang for selling diseased pigs.

Back downstream in Shanghai, some people are confused and incredulous. Wang, a 27-year-old who works in the media business, put it like this.

WANG: (Through translator) We really hope an inspection body or government can come out to tell us how exactly these pigs died. You can't just say the pigs died of cold weather. That's a pretty laughable statement.

LANGFITT: Shanghai officials insist the pigs have not contaminated the city's water supply, which draws in part from the river. Wang is dubious.

WANG: (Foreign language spoken)

LANGFITT: People in Shanghai think it's better not to eat pork, she says, because they worry diseased pigs would end up on their dinner tables. People say the water we use to brush our teeth is pork broth. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Shanghai.

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